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How to Potty Train (Housebreak) any Dog or Puppy

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What is the number one question that I hear from dog owners – Aly, how do I house train or potty train my dog? Potty training is all about patience and consistency. You need to make sure you are not losing “your cool” and getting upset with your dog and make sure to keep your puppy or dog on a strict schedule.

The basics of potty training are:

  • Management and Supervision: your puppy or dog is always supervised or is in a puppy safe area like a crate
  • Consistency and Schedule: puppy or dog goes out after sleeping, playing, eating and every x-amount of hours – depending on his age
  • Accidents: accidents will happen, make sure not to punish a puppy for an accident – especially if you were not there!

Always seek medical advice if your puppy or dog starts having accidents in the house when they did not before. This could be a sign of an illness.

You might have to take time off from work or hire a dog walker to properly house train and potty train your puppy or new dog.

Accidents: Accidents will happen when you are first potty training your dog or puppy. You just have to expect them.

You cannot punish a dog after the accident has happened. Most dogs only follow one step of causality, that means what “happened right before this moment”. If you come home and scream or get upset at your puppy for having an accident inside, all your puppy knows is that you came home and were mad at him or her. Research shows that dogs do not feel guilty. This study investigated 14 dogs. The dogs had the option to disobey their owners and eat the treat or not. The owners did not know if the dog ate the treat or if the scientist took the treat away. Even if the dog did not misbehave, he still “acted” guilty when the owner was upset. The research showed that the so called guilty look was a response to cues from the owner rather than the appreciation of a misdeed.

If an accident is happening in front of you, simply interrupt the puppy or dog and take them outside (trail of pee or poop might follow you). Try not to scare your dog, it should be just a simple interruption.  If the accident happened when you were not around or you did not see the puppy do it, simply clean it up!

Pat Miller once wrote That old rolled up newspaper? You can use it to smack yourself in the head every time your dog has an accident, for allowing your management program to slip. If it’s not caused by a medical problem, an indoor potty incident is always a management lapse.

It is important to clean up the messes right away and to neutralize odors so the dog does not continue going to that spot.

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Management and Supervision:

Until your puppy is house trained, he cannot have the full range of the house. He should be supervised at all time. This means that he is either tethered to you by a leash or is confined in the room with you. You want to have fast access to your dog or puppy so that you can spot your dog starting to potty and interrupt him. Remember, if you did not see the accident happen, you CANNOT do anything about it except clean it up.

If you cannot supervise your dog, he should be in a crate or a small (let me say this again, SMALL) puppy safe play pen.  Most dogs do not want to potty in small confined areas and will try to hold it. However, if you are leaving your puppy too long in the confined area he or she might have an accident and then learn that they can potty in the crate. The crate should be large enough for the dog to stand up in and turn around. But not so large that there is plenty of extra space to designate as a bathroom.

I strongly suggest avoiding potty pads or potty areas in a crate or in the house. The dog will learn to potty in those spots and it could be very helpful. However, it can be hard to help your dog then transfer the knowledge to outside. You will have to go through the potty training steps anyway, so just do them outside to begin with, it will save you lots of trouble in the end. My girl was trained to potty inside on potty pads by her old owner and when I got her she had no bladder control (6 years old!) so she would potty on any small rug. So we had to go through potty training from step one.

Consistency and Schedule:

Keeping your puppy or dog on a potty schedule is the most important part of house training and potty training. Young dogs and puppies need to let out more often than older dogs. When you bring your puppy home take them out as often as you can. If you are not home to take them out, you must make arrangements with a dog walker.

A puppy needs to go out every hour for his age. 2 months old can usually go 30mins to every 2 hours, 3 months every 3 hours and so on. After 6 months, your puppy needs to go out every 6 to 8 hours.

You need to take your puppy out first thing when you wake up, after eating and soon after he drinks. You should take him out after play time as well. Be consistent! Make sure the puppy knows that we are going out to potty not to play! Wait for them to go potty and then let them run around. If the puppy does not go, simply bring them back in and take them out about 5-10 mins after.

If you are not home during the day, hire a dog walker to take him out until he has better control of his bladder.

When your puppy first comes home, he might need to go potty during the night. Put his water and food away an hour or so before bed. Make sure to take him out right before you go to bed. Figure out how long he can hold it and then slowly increase that time for him. If he can sleep for 4 hours before going out, maybe the next night have him hold it for 4.5 hours and so on. How quickly your increase his time, will depend on your dog.

Potty Training Rules for Outside:

  • Always praise your dog when he goes outside. I recommend to save the praise for right when you think the puppy or dog is finishing up, because you don’t want to interrupt the puppy and then have them finish inside.
  • Try to avoid using treats. This will eliminate him stopping halfway so he can get the treat and then finishing inside.
  • Never ever end a walk right after your dog or puppy goes potty. If you do the dog or puppy can learn to hold it so that they can control how long the walk is. It is better to try to get your dog or puppy to potty before the walk or during the beginning of the walk.

Teach “Go Potty” Command:

  1. Watch your dog closely when you let her outside or when on a walk.
  2. Pay attention to her showing any signs that she is getting ready to pee.
  3. As soon as she squats or starts to lift leg say “Go Potty”
  4. Praise and reward after she does.
  5. Do this every time she goes to the bathroom and soon she will start associating the word with her actions.